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From Anglo-Norman, from Old French grapil, grapin (French grappin).


  • IPA(key): /ˈɡɹæpnəl/
  • (file)


grapnel (plural grapnels)

  1. (nautical) A small anchor, having more than two flukes, used for anchoring a small vessel.
    • 1599, The fift voyage of M. Iohn VVhite into the VVest Indies and parts of America called Virginia, in the yeere 1590 in Richard Hakluyt (editor), The principal nauigations, voyages, traffiques and discoueries of the English nation, Volume 3, p. 292,[1]
      [] we espied towards the North end of the Iland ye light of a great fire thorow the woods, to the which we presently rowed: when wee came right ouer against it, we let fall our Grapnel neere the shore, & sounded with a trumpet a Call []
    • 1790, William Bligh, A Narrative of the Mutiny on Board his Majesty’s Ship Bounty, London: George Nicol, Entry for 1 June, 1789,[2]
      At dawn of day we got on shore, and tracked the boat into shelter; for the wind blowing fresh without, and the ground being rocky, I was afraid to trust her at a grapnel, lest she might be blown to sea: I was, therefore, obliged to let her ground in the course of the ebb.
    Synonym: graplin
  2. A device with a multiple hook at one end and attached to a rope, which is thrown or hooked over a firm mooring to secure an object attached to the other end of the rope.
  3. (nautical) A grappling iron.
    • 1785, John Rickman, Journal of Captain Cook’s Last Voyage to the Pacific Ocean, London: E. Newbery, Part II, p. 233,[3]
      [] the wind dying away, the signal was made for casting anchor, when both ships came to in 26 fathom water; but the Resolution expecting to come to with her small stream anchor, let the whole run out, and lost both anchor and hauser, besides the ship’s grapnel in looking for it.
    • 1851, Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chapter 2:
      With anxious grapnels I had sounded my pocket, and only brought up a few pieces of silver ...
    • 1887, Thomas Hardy, The Woodlanders, Chapter 22,[4]
      [] Why, you’ve flung your grapnel over the doctor, and he’s coming courting forthwith.”
    • 1936, Rafael Sabatini, “Sacrilege” in The Fortunes of Captain Blood,[5]
      But by the mercy o’ God to heretics, what were left o’ my poor ship got a hold on that guarda-costa’s timbers wi’ her grapnels, what time we climbs aboard her.



grapnel (third-person singular simple present grapnels, present participle grapnelling, simple past and past participle grapnelled)

  1. (transitive, nautical) To connect (ships) with a grapnel.